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Home > Tamilnation Library> International Relations > Special Forces: The Changing Face of Warfare
TAMIL NATION LIBRARY: International Relations
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From the front flap...
"The celebrated elite forces actions of the 1970s and 1980s gave rise to a worldwide fascination with these shadowy, clandestine warriors, who added to the intrigue by their very `invisibility'. Their actions were high profile, but they remained beyond the public gaze. As a result, much that was written about their work has been based upon surmise and innuendo, so propagating the myth rather than resolving it.
But special purpose warfare is not a new phenomenon. Every historical era and each major armed force has had its elite units, its specialists - be they scouts, raiders or snipers. In this book the author explains the roots of special forces work by tracing the predecessors of today's SAS, Delta Force, Spetznaz and others back to the ages of the Greeks, Romans and even the Vikings, through the Napoleonic era, the American Civil War and British colonial actions to the more familiar ground of twentieth century action.
It tells of the pioneers of this military art - including Hannibal, Saladin, Lawrence of Arabia, Wingate and Giap - before discussing the elite actions of World War Two and the days of the Cold War and Vietnam. It then details the current special purpose forces of the major nations before establishing the role of the modern specialist soldier and how he might adapt to the security and defence needs of the next century.
For those who study this subject but feel they still lack the background knowledge of the evolution of special forces, this is an important volume. The general reader will gain a broader picture of elite unit warfare against which he or she can set their awareness of the familiar raids and missions."
From the Chapter on The Lifting of the Veil of Special Forces Secrecy...
"The concept of open government is an ideal to which few countries genuinely aspire. Despite protestations to the contrary Britain has effectively strengthened several key aspects of her Official Secrets legislation, and has only recently released many First World War records to the public domain. The United States has its much vaunted Freedom of Information Act, yet even now neither the CIA nor the military have shown the slightest inclination to disclose many covert aspects of the Vietnam War.
Generalisations are dangerous, however it would not be unfair to say that when the major security services are given the opportunity to circumvent open government. they take it. Knowledge is power, and the release of too much information on the internal structure of a security force can easily undermine its ability to operate. Worse, it can lead to the compromise of its operators and to the possible death of its agents.
It is the duty of special purpose forces involved in the maintenance of security to protect their parent society against disorder, intimidation and terrorism. Many agencies prefer to operate in uniform, or at the very least their staff work overtly with full peer group support. Occasionally, however, victimisation or intimidation will force agents to operate with police protection, often with disastrous results. By way of examplc in South Vietnam in the late 1960s there were many villages in which the local officials operated freely by day. issuing licences and permits and collecting taxes, but they and their policemen and soldiers all moved out to spend the night in a defended compound outside the village. This suited the Communists absolutely. While visiting politicians, news teams and others reported the villages as `under government control' the reality was very different. Control rested with the Viet Cong who emerged after dark to summarily try and to execute any who had collaborated with the government.
Agent Handling and the Need for Secrecy
It follows that the public, if they are to dare to give information to the police or the security services, must feel confident that they can do so without recrimination. Despite recent technological advances HUMINT (Human Intelligence), the exploitation of human resources, still provides the bulk of intelligence input at all but strategic levels. Information, to be of real use, must not only be accurate but timely. To operate effectively anti-terrorist units require a profound insight into the political aspirations and military intentions of their adversaries. This can often only be obtained by the painstaking joining together of a thousand jigsaw pieces of sometimes trivial information into a single intelligence plan.
The creation of an intelligence system capable of piecing together such a jigsaw requires the trust of its sources. Whether they are ordinary members of the public who walk into a police station to give information on a crime, or are paid informants working for an organisation as covert as 14 Int, they must know that they are safe. It is necessary their identities must be hidden and their families protected.
First rate HUMINT can often only be obtained from within an organisation either by infiltrating an agent into one of its cells or by turning an existing member. Turning is best achieved by targeting a participant whose heart is not in it or who is suffering from obvious family pressures. Initial meetings with the target may only be conducted by highly trained operators, and for obvious reasons must take place in the utmost secrecy. The `need to know' principle, whereby only those within the intelligence network who actively require details of the agent are given them, must be imposed rigidly; even if, as occasionally happens in Northern Ireland. this creates a rift between two departments.
There is nothing more demoralising to hard-core terrorists than the fear of internal betrayal. They will try to stifle this by ruthless exemplary punishments. Occasionally this increases the desire of the waverers to escape from their nightmare. As sympathisers are detected and terrorists arrested, they become increasingly susceptible to turning in the hope of withdrawing themselves and their families from further violence. This leads to further arrests, and ultimately to the disintegration of terrorist support among the local populace, as it becomes clear that their cause is lost.
This policy worked with excellent results against the Mau Mau in Kenya and against the communist terrorists in Malaya, and to a lesser extent against various other guerrilla organisations in South America. However it met with far less success with the Freds in Northern Ireland, and has since led to a series of highly embarrassing 'supergrass' trials in which the evidence of turned (and well paid) informers has been brought into disrepute.
If allowed to terrorists are quite capable of using basic psychological operations techniques to frustrate the special purpose forces sent to combat them. Recent disturbing reports from Northern Ireland suggest that Loyalist paramilitaries are being supplied with the names and addresses of the relatives of Protestants whom they wish to coerce into support. It is rumoured within the community that the more intimate aspects of this information are being supplied from within the security services. Whatever the truth or otherwise of this wholly unsubstantiated suggestion, the mere intimation of internal compromise is frustrating the ability of the bona fide intelligence gatherers in their attempts to win the trust and support of the population as a whole..."